Why does God instruct Moses to tell Pharaoh that they are going into the wilderness for three days in Exodus 3:18?
Exodus 3:18 NASB
18 They will [l]pay heed to what you say; and you with the elders of
Israel will come to the king of Egypt and you will say to him, ‘The
Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. So now, please, let us
go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to
the Lord our God.’
Was God placating Pharaoh?, No ,God was not placating Pharaoh, He was testing Pharaoh's heart, by means of this reasonable request, it revealed what was in Pharaoh's heart- his heart was hard.
Leaving Egypt for just three days would have been of little loss to the Egyptians, however if Moses and Aaron indicated that God purposed that the Israelites were to leave Egypt permanently , it was most likely that Pharaoh would have raised objections, just imagine if over one million people were to pack up and leave permanently overnight. The Israelites were slaves to the Egyptians , minding their fields , livestock ,buildings and other.
Pharaoh not only objected to the Israelites leaving for just three days , he further decreed harsher labors on them:
Exodus 5:6-9 (NASB)
Israel’s Labor Increased
6 "So the same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters over the people
and their foremen, saying, 7 “You are no longer to give the people
straw to make brick as previously; let them go and gather straw for
themselves. 8 But the quota of bricks which they were making
previously, you shall impose on them; you are not to reduce any of it.
Because they are lazy, therefore they cry out, Let us go and sacrifice
to our God.’ 9 Let the labor be heavier on the men, and let them work
at it so that they will pay no attention to false words.”